I discover which tools are my favorites by how often I find myself reaching for them. When working with hardwoods the smoothing plane I most often reach for is this Chinese style smoothing plane. I have several similar planes in a variety of sizes but this is the one I keep closest to the bench.
It is made of some type of rosewood and has a high blade angle of around 60 degrees. It also has an extremely tight mouth. This style of plane leaves a surface virtually free of tear out on just about any hardwood, even highly figured maple and cherry.
Some of the Chinese planes I use had the brand name of Mujingfang on the box and others did not. They were all realtively inexpensive with the largest costing around $50 a few years ago. The smaller ones cost under $20. A number of tool shops were carrying them a few years ago and a few places still carry them.
Learning to use this style of plane took some time. Like all wooden planes it occasionally needs to have the sole flattened and there is a little trial and error to adjusting the blade with a hammer. The challenge was to get used to a completely different style of grip. At first I found the plane hard to control and my hands would feel cramped after a short time.
I’m glad I kept trying to use this plane. I eventually adjusted my technique and I now find it very comfortable to hold and the grip and stance give me the power I need to push a high angle plane. The higher the blade angle the smoother the blade will cut through difficult wood but it also take a lot more power to push.
If you come across one of these I’d suggest you give it a try.